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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080225/ap_on_re_us/scotus_exxon_valdez


CORDOVA, Alaska - For many in this coastal town, it is known simply as the Oil Spill, an event so crushing that hard-bitten fishermen still get teary-eyed recalling ruined livelihoods, broken marriages and suicides.

But mostly, people in Cordova talk about the numbing wait for legal retribution for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

It's been almost 19 years since the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground at Alaska's Bligh Reef, spurting 11 million gallons of crude into the rich fishing waters of Prince William Sound. In 1994, an Anchorage jury awarded victims $5 billion in punitive damages. That amount has since been cut in half by other courts on appeals by Exxon Mobil Corp.

Now the town of 2,200 looks anxiously to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Wednesday from Exxon on why the company should not have to pay punitive damages at all.

Scores of Cordova residents are among almost 33,000 plaintiffs — including commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, landowners, businesses and local governments — who could see the $2.5 billion judgment taken away by the high court.

"With this legal system the way it has been protracted out, people can't put it behind them," said Cordova Mayor Tim Joyce. "The final recompense has never been made."

Steve Smith, a 69-year-old Cordova fisherman, worries that big business will prevail.

"I really wonder, what do you do if you don't get a just decision out of the Supreme Court," he said on his boat Prince William. "I mean, there's no other court to take it to. What do you got left, really? Anarchy?"

The spill soiled 1,200 miles of shoreline and killed hundreds of thousands of birds and other marine animals, inflicting environmental injuries that have not fully recovered, according to numerous scientific studies. Exxon contends it should not be liable for the actions of the Exxon Valdez skipper, Joseph Hazelwood, when the supertanker ran aground on March 24, 1989, with 53 millions gallons of oil in its hold.

Prosecutors said Hazelwood was drunk, but he denied it and was acquitted of the charge in criminal court.

Cordova itself, 45 miles from Bligh Reef, was not directly touched by the slick. But residents say the spill was a crippling blow for a town so dependent on commercial fishing, particularly for herring, whose numbers plummeted several years after the spill and have yet to return.

The mayor at the time of the spill later killed himself, leaving a long suicide note that mentioned Exxon.

Mike Webber, a 47-year-old Native Alaskan artist and fisherman from Cordova, said his marriage did not survive the strain; he and his wife divorced two years after the spill. With the fishing industry in shreds, he also began drinking heavily, finally checking himself into rehab in 1998.

He said that he has been sober ever since, but that others kept drinking and abusing drugs and sank into severe depression and, in some cases, suicide.

Webber carved a "shame pole" last year to commemorate the spill and will be in Washington this week with the 7-foot carved piece of cedar, which depicts former longtime Exxon chief executive Lee Raymond with dollar-sign eyes and a Pinocchio-like nose. An oil slick pours from Raymond's mouth along with the words uttered by a top Exxon official soon after the spill: "We will make you whole."

"Well, they didn't," Webber said, his voice breaking. "They just put a hole in us is what they did, right in our hearts and it hurts. And they took part of our soul."

According to plaintiffs, Exxon knew Hazelwood had begun drinking again after seeking treatment, but the company still put him at the helm of the nearly 1,000-foot ship.

At issue is whether Exxon should have to pay any damages under the federal Clean Water Act and centuries-old laws governing shipping.

Exxon maintains that punitive damages would be excessive punishment beside the $3.5 billion in cleanup costs, compensatory payments and fines it already has paid. As for the environmental effects of the spill, the claim about severe, continuing damage to the sound "is simply untrue," according to the Texas company, which earlier this month posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company — $40.6 billion.

"The environment in Prince William Sound is healthy, robust and thriving," Exxon spokesman Tony Cudmore said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "That's the conclusion of many scientists who have done extensive studies of the Prince William Sound ecosystem."

To the casual observer, the sound's stunning beauty has been restored, its many islands, fjords and glaciers a photographer's dream. But residents in Cordova and other communities say the region is still a long way from healing. It took years for salmon to rebound, and sea otters and Harlequin ducks are still below pre-spill numbers.

An estimated 85 tons of crude linger, according to a federal study released last year. Jars of oil-stained sand and rocks still being dug up in the spill area can be examined at the Prince William Sound Science Center at the south end of town.

Most devastating to Cordova residents, the once-lucrative Pacific herring fishery has not returned in significant numbers since 1993, a failure precipitated by the spill, according to a recent report by science center researchers. Exxon maintains there is no link between the spill and the virus that reduced the number of herring.

The herring catch used to kick-start the entire town after the quieter winter months. Herring meant a quick bounty for fishermen and ready cash for boat insurance, equipment repairs and new gear. For many, it represented a half year's earnings. Herring also brought auxiliary ships, processor vessels, and plane crews for spotting the fish.

"A whole lifestyle has gone," said restaurant owner Libbie Graham. "Life was great. I mean, you worked hard but you were rewarded for it."

The year before the spill, Cordova received $1.2 million — or 2 percent of the value of fish caught — through the state's raw fish tax, according to Joyce, the mayor. Post-spill, the town's annual cut has averaged around $500,000, reflecting the loss of the herring and the falling price of salmon.

"When our budget is just $6 million, that's a big hit for us," Joyce said.

Steve Picou, a sociologist with the University of South Alabama who has been researching the effects of the spill on Cordova residents, said that initially, reports of stress and depression were directly linked to the loss of jobs for fishermen and the damage to the environment so crucial to Alaska Natives who hunt and fish for their food. Later, he said, the stress increased because of the drawn-out court battle with Exxon.

"I find it not only ironic but tragic that the very process that is supposed to resolve the social impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill — that is, litigation — has, over time, become a source of stress and disruption itself," Picou said.
 

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Wow. Who knows how much the compensation *should* be. Was it devastating for the residents? Was Exxon at fault? The answer to both is yes, but billions of dollars for extra punitive damages? Exxon has already spend many billions for the cleanup.

Human nature is such that people would do anything for that kind of cash. How does that money fix things? I'm pretty sure Exxon has learned the lesson so its not to teach them anything.

Still, in my dealings with insurance companies, you never quite get the full and total replacement value. You only get the absolute bare minimum that the fine print holds them to.
 

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Take that times it by 4. Thats 44Billion PROFIT. They preach to us, that we should understand that they can charge 4 bucks a gallon and laugh all the way to the bank. Now they are doing this and well the are starting to look like the tobacco companies. They are in the wrong. If a pilot was found to be drunk and crashed an airplane into a builiding with 300 people on it who should be sued? the pilot or the company. the company.
 

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Take that times it by 4. Thats 44Billion PROFIT.
So they should pay the punitive damages because they can afford it; because they have gads of money and it shouldn't hurt them too bad?

They preach to us, that we should understand that they can charge 4 bucks a gallon and laugh all the way to the bank. Now they are doing this and well the are starting to look like the tobacco companies.
What does your state charge for gasoline taxes? Why complain about the evil oil companies when the evil States are sticking it to the consumer?

They are in the wrong. If a pilot was found to be drunk and crashed an airplane into a builiding with 300 people on it who should be sued? the pilot or the company. the company.
Exxon/Mobil has shelled out quite a lot over this already, between fines, clean-up costs, as well as $287,000,000.00 in compensatory damages.

And since when is an oil company realizing insane profits a bad thing?

If you were in business, wouldn't you want to maximize your profitability?
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
What does your state charge for gasoline taxes? Why complain about the evil oil companies when the evil States are sticking it to the consumer?
Interesting arguments. The taxes do vary by state, and supposedly they do go to build and maintain infrastructure. Naturally, the money is ciphoned and put elsewhere. But, as far as the company sticking it to consumers, it is a dual edge sword. While there are supposed to be no monopolies, they, in effect do have one, as oil/gas is the only source available for transportation. As consumers, if they are unhappy with prices, the only way to send a message is to boycott that company and refuse to purchase their products.



Exxon/Mobil has shelled out quite a lot over this already, between fines, clean-up costs, as well as $287,000,000.00 in compensatory damages.
The money here is irrelevant IMHO. No matter what the cost, the company is responsible and should be held 100% accountable to fully restore the environment to a pre-oil spill condition. It should not matter if the company has 5 million in cash reserves, or 5 quintillion, they are at fault and should pay for restoration. Punitive damages are a punishment, and this should be in-line with the damage the environment and others recevied. If the damage was minimal, then the punitive damages should reflect this; however, due to the complete disaster of this, the punitive damages should be more severe. The cost of the clean-up should not be a factor when deciding punitive damages.

And since when is an oil company realizing insane profits a bad thing?

If you were in business, wouldn't you want to maximize your profitability?
Everyone likes an underdog. Why does everyone hate Microsoft? Again, dual edge sword. What is the alternative? Mac? Linux? Most people see MS and oil companies as tyrants and charging "insane" prices for their goods. Fact of the matter is, we live in a capitalist society, and prices are driven by demand and whatever the corporation sets them. If consumers do not like the prices, they should find another company in which to do business with. Imagine if the entire country boycotted Exxon? Eventually they would have to lower prices.

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Interesting arguments. The taxes do vary by state, and supposedly they do go to build and maintain infrastructure. Naturally, the money is ciphoned and put elsewhere. But, as far as the company sticking it to consumers, it is a dual edge sword. While there are supposed to be no monopolies, they, in effect do have one, as oil/gas is the only source available for transportation. As consumers, if they are unhappy with prices, the only way to send a message is to boycott that company and refuse to purchase their products.
Exxon is a monopoly?

That's news to me...

The money here is irrelevant IMHO.
Right.

The only people in Alaska who are saying that are the people wanting to get paid...

No matter what the cost, the company is responsible and should be held 100% accountable to fully restore the environment to a pre-oil spill condition.
I believe that's been done, and I believe that Exxon paid that bill...

It should not matter if the company has 5 million in cash reserves, or 5 quintillion, they are at fault and should pay for restoration.
Agreed.

And they have...

Punitive damages are a punishment, and this should be in-line with the damage the environment and others recevied. If the damage was minimal, then the punitive damages should reflect this; however, due to the complete disaster of this, the punitive damages should be more severe.
The punitive damages have nothing to do with the damage to the environment. There's no accurate way to quantify what that damage was. Compensatory (root word: compensate, as in "compensation") damages have been paid to those affected by the tragedy...

The cost of the clean-up should not be a factor when deciding punitive damages.
And what of the compensatory damages? You keep mentioning damage to the environment, clean-up, and punitive damages, but you've yet to mention the compensatory damages that have been paid to those whose livelihoods were adversely affected...

Everyone likes an underdog. Why does everyone hate Microsoft?
I dunno'... I don't hate 'em...

Again, dual edge sword. What is the alternative? Mac? Linux? Most people see MS and oil companies as tyrants and charging "insane" prices for their goods.
Then "most people" are myopic.

If Company A prices their new MK2 MOD 7 Widget at $100,000,000.00 each, people won't care until Company A starts makiing money with it. Then people get greedy...

Fact of the matter is, we live in a capitalist society, and prices are driven by demand and whatever the corporation sets them. If consumers do not like the prices, they should find another company in which to do business with. Imagine if the entire country boycotted Exxon? Eventually they would have to lower prices.
Yes, because Exxon only makes gasoline.

:rolleyes:

Boycotts rarely work, and one would not work in the case of Exxon. Have you ever actually looked at the things Exxon is involved in? Gasoline production for the US market is but a fraction of what they do.

Again, I'm still waiting for someone to convince me that "punitive damages" (what are "fines", if not "punitive"?) should be paid in this case and, if they are, why the people who already split $287 million dollars should be the ones to be awarded those damages...
 

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I think the main fact here is that Exxon is saying to the American Public that they should not be angry at Exxon because gas is at an all time high and their NET PROFIT is 44 BILLION dollars, higher than Standard oil ever was.

I think its crap when Exxon says there is a small supply. They probably want to keep this "oil crisis" in the news so they can charge an arm and a leg and laugh all the way to the bank.
 

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I think the main fact here is that Exxon is saying to the American Public that they should not be angry at Exxon because gas is at an all time high and their NET PROFIT is 44 BILLION dollars, higher than Standard oil ever was.

I think its crap when Exxon says there is a small supply. They probably want to keep this "oil crisis" in the news so they can charge an arm and a leg and laugh all the way to the bank.
Sorry, but none of that makes an iota of sense.

First, Exxon accepted responsibility for the Valdez incident. Second, and again, what's wrong with a company being as profitable as possible?

I'm beginning to get the impression that a lot of folks here think Exxon should pay, simply because they have the money. Well, that's not a good enough reason, especially when you consider what they've paid already.

So, anyoone with a halfway compelliing argument?
 

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Steve,

Say that you had an Exxon oil truck crash into your house/yard etc. The driver is drunk so Exxon says that they do not have to pay for anything but a small compsenation of say 25,000 dollars for your car. They say that its the drivers fault and therefore they are not to be held responsibile even though its their oil all over your yard and house, and the value of it goes down, therefore you lose money. Now take that and apply it to the 1200 miles of coastline.

What this goes to show that Big Business do not want to be held liable for their actions when it comes to enviromental damages. They retreat to some maritime law from 200 years ago and other crap like that. They just want profit and I understand the business mentality and all but when you trade your morals and ethics for money, you lose your soul. The fact that the spill led to one death (the suicide) is ridicilous, in the fact that, even though this was years ago it still affects people to this day.

Exxon big wigs prob give two bits about the people that live up there, they care about numbers. From what the article says that they promised to clean everything up and they haven't. They broke their promise and they should pay. I mean 44Billion NET profit 1.5 billion is chump change.

I think Exxon is getting up there with Philip Morris in giving two bits about the small person, and is about to eclipse the overall habits of Standard Oil and their power.
 

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BTW Exxon still uses single hulled transports in US Waters even though they are mandated by the US to start using them by 2015. The main reason they are using the single hulled is because they are 33% cheaper to use than the double. Also of the 25 oil spills in excess of 1 million dollars are from single hulled tankers.


Sure cut corners until you get burned...ohh and lets not even talk about Big Oil Grants that they are getting. They get 18 Billion dollars a year in subsidizes(sp)
 

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Steve,

Say that you had an Exxon oil truck crash into your house/yard etc. The driver is drunk so Exxon says that they do not have to pay for anything but a small compsenation of say 25,000 dollars for your car. They say that its the drivers fault and therefore they are not to be held responsibile even though its their oil all over your yard and house, and the value of it goes down, therefore you lose money. Now take that and apply it to the 1200 miles of coastline.
Well, I suppose if all I can expect to discuss here is obtuse fantasies, I'll move on before too long...

What this goes to show that Big Business do not want to be held liable for their actions when it comes to enviromental damages.

They retreat to some maritime law from 200 years ago and other crap like that.
And therein lies the rub.

Why should individuals collect punitive damages for environmental damage? And, if the people there can be paid them, why can't I? I love Alaskan King Crab. But, my God, I was unable to get it for a while because of Valdez.

Frankly, I believe I should be paid, 100 fold, what I would've spent on Alaskan King Crab so I can feel whole again.

A jury initially awarded $287 million to compensate for economic losses, and Exxon paid that. They also paid $3.4 billion in fines, penalties, cleanup costs, claims and other expenses.

Seems kinda' odd you accuse them of trying to hide behind some archaic law when they've already shelled out, and rightfully so, almost four billion dollars...

They just want profit and I understand the business mentality and all but when you trade your morals and ethics for money, you lose your soul.
Again, please tell me why "punitive damages" should be paid, and why they should be paid to individuals. It's not a matter of losing your soul, it's a matter of paying the people who deserve it. The people affected by this have been paid. Why should they be paid again?

The fact that the spill led to one death (the suicide) is ridicilous, in the fact that, even though this was years ago it still affects people to this day.
Anyone who believe there wasn't a whole lot else going on in that guy's life is fooling themselves. Blaming Exxon for the suicide is convenient, but it's not accurate...

Exxon big wigs prob give two ****s about the people that live up there, they care about numbers.
They're a business. Businessmen care about numbers. It's what they do. How that surprises anyone is beyond me...

From what the article says that they promised to clean everything up and they haven't.
"From what the article says"??

Seriously, do a little research on your own. You'll learn what Exxon did and didn't do. Given that you're so predisposed to believing the article, I trust you'd be somewhat surprised to learn what Exxon did, and what they paid...

They broke their promise and they should pay. I mean 44Billion NET profit 1.5 billion is chump change.
This is great; I've been waiting for this.

What's the purpose of "punitive damages"? Isn't it to "punish" the entity paying them?

If $1.5 billion is, in fact, the "chump change" you present it to be, then making them pay it, while they remain sitting on $42.5 billion dollars, is hardly a "punishment". It's an annoyance, and nothing more.

As it's such a small percentage, it makes it glaringly obvious that the people demanding the money have little concern over whether or not Exxon is "punished". They just want to be paid, and they found a company with deep pockets to go after.

Screw 'em...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
To all posters and potential posters in this thread. I understand we all have very different opinions here. But please be respectful of other's opinions. There is no way we are going to agree on any one topic here, which always leads to debate; however, let us keep it a health debate, and respect other's opinions, no matter how far off base we think they are. Thanks!
 

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Hey guys,

I think everyone's had their say in this. Like politics, environment business issues are very deep & personal - and rarely changed. Before it get too far out of hand let's just let it all go & move on...

If the courts & appeal courts can't answer it, and they need the Supreme Court to give their say - I doubt we can provide the 'correct' answer either... :wink:

So, anyone ready for the NFL draft or MLB spring training?
 

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BTW Exxon still uses single hulled transports in US Waters even though they are mandated by the US to start using them by 2015.
I'm sure you meant to say that they were mandated to use twin-hull vessels.

That notwithstanding:

So we're going to find fault with them for doing nothing wrong? Man, that's beautiful. They need to do it by 2015, but let's criticize them for not doing it yet. I would also be real interested in knowing whether or not Exxon is the only company using single-hull oilers, or if they're just the cause du jour.

ConocoPhillips started using them in 2001, nine years after the "mandate". Yet, oddly, that twin-hull construction hasn't stop accidents.

In January 2004, an on-deck spill, aboard the ConocoPhillips tanker Polar Discovery, went into the ocean. Only two months later, the Polar Endeavor suffered a spill. In May and June of that same year, an engineer on the Polar Alaska was found to be bypassing equipment which removed oil from engine room wastewater. That incident, which occurred almost four years ago, is still under investigation.

Now, were any of these incidents as bad as the Exxon Valdez? Not by a long shot. But they serve to prove that twin-hull construction is not the "end all" fix that so many people think it is...

The main reason they are using the single hulled is because they are 33% cheaper to use than the double. Also of the 25 oil spills in excess of 1 million dollars are from single hulled tankers.
Hehehehehe... I'm sorry, but that's gotta' be a Freudian slip!

Sure cut corners until you get burned...ohh and lets not even talk about Big Oil Grants that they are getting. They get 18 Billion dollars a year in subsidizes(sp)
What corners have they cut? There's no law or "mandate" that says they need to be using twin-hulled vessels now. If, in 2015, they're still not, then we can discuss corner-cutting. Until that time, though, they're operating within the law.

Again, there hasn't been a compelling reason offered to pay these "punitive damages" to individuals beyond the fact that Exxon has the money.

And that's a really weak argument...
 

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The subsidies probably are an issue. Not to pick exclusively on Exxon (full disclosure, I'm a shareholder), but I don't understand why an industry that is extremely healthy should get $18B in free money from the gov't.

I know these companies also produce alternative energy and other products with the fractions from the barrel that they can't cook or crack into gasoline. I'd like to know more about this subsidy. I grew up in Arizona where sunshine is more than plentiful. There is a proposed solar plant there that would the world's largest in one of the most perfect places for it. I'd rather the subsidy go to projects like this that do start us on the process of more alternative energy.
 
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